Slow Walking Speed Linked to Alzheimer’s

Slow Walking Speed Linked to Alzheimer’sSlow Walking Speed Linked to Alzheimer’s

Slowing down may seem the privilege of the elderly but pensioners who take it too easy may be at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, a French study suggests.

Older people who walk slowly could be suffering from a build-up of the sticky amyloid brain plaques which lead to dementia.

A study of 128 people in their 70s with memory problems found that amyloid levels accounted for up to 9% of the difference in walking speed, the Independent reported.  

The average speed of those taking part was 2.3 miles per hour, but pensioners who walked more slowly had higher concentration of amyloid.

French researchers say lifestyle factors such as smoking and lack of exercise have been known to both hinder walking and raise the risk of developing dementia. But it is possible that a slow gait may also signal changes in the body which could make Alzheimer’s more likely.

“It’s possible that having subtle walking disturbances in addition to memory concerns may signal Alzheimer’s disease, even before people show any clinical symptoms,” said study author Dr Natalia del Campo, of the Gerontopole and the Center of Excellence in Neurodegeneration of Toulouse in France.

To find out the link between walking speed and Alzheimer’s, scientists scanned the brains of participants to find out how much amyloid was present and tested them on thinking and memory skills and how well they could complete everyday activities.

Researchers found an association between slow walking speed and amyloid in several areas of the brain, including the putamen, a key region involved in motor function.

Around 800,000 people in Britain suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. The numbers are expected to increase as the population ages.

Dr. Laura Phipps from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said, “While forgetfulness and confusion are usually the first symptoms that people associate with Alzheimer’s disease, there can also be a range of physical symptoms, such as mobility problems.”

The research was published in the online journal Neurology.